Americans have been eating pork for centuries, ever since the first hogs were imported to the United States in 1539. Nowadays, 42% of red meat eaten in the U.S. is pork, and that number has been continuously increasing throughout the past few decades. By the end of 2018, the USDA predicts that demand for pork in America will meet or exceed that of beef. We also export the majority of the world’s pork and pork products, so the future for hog farmers and their investors looks bright.
As Americans’ demand for pork grew and the number of people who raised their own food decreased, corporate hog farms were created. These farms, known as factory farms, usually fit large numbers of hogs into a small facility in order to maximize space. Factory farmed animals are increasingly being rejected by both animals’ rights activists and consumers alike, who prefer hogs raised without antibiotics and growth hormones
By contrast, sustainable pasture-based pork production allows hogs to roam free instead of living in cages. These hogs live more like how they would in the wild, free to move around in fields and the woods with small shelters where they can sleep. Pastured pigs receive feed in addition to food that they root for themselves. There are actually lower startup costs associated with pasture-based farms because it requires no expensive buildings or structures. Additionally, hogs can be raised on nonproductive wasteland, which is less expensive than lush green pastures.
Not only do hogs do better when living in their natural environment, they can produce a better product. While it may seem that this would be more costly than factory farms, sustainable production can be very profitable. The overhead cost of raising hogs in pastures is lower, and the premium hogs can be sold for a higher price. Many large corporations and restaurants have switched and now prefer pork that was produced sustainably. It usually has deeper, richer, or more complex flavor than factory-farmed pork does. There is a growing market for sustainable and natural foods, which cannot be provided by factory farms. Farms that raise hogs without antibiotics or growth hormones are able to sell their pork on the conventional market as well as these more specialized markets.
Sustainable pork production is also better for the environment. Factory farms lead to high levels of animal waste, which release high levels of nitrogen and pathogens into our water. Pasture-based pork production does not pack as many animals onto a piece of land, and therefore limits the amount of pollutants that are released into the environment.
These sustainable pork producers provide a steady supply of safe and healthy pork for consumers around the country and around the world. They have proven that it is possible to be profitable while also caring for the safety and health of the animals, the consumer, and the planet. There are solid markets for both conventionally-raised and naturally-raised pork and opportunities for investors in these operations as well.